The availability of your juvenile delinquency records to the general public is disadvantageous since it prevents you from advancing in life. Additionally, the records may lead to significant discrimination, including normal daily interactions. Therefore, sealing juvenile records brings about several advantages, like helping you avoid hardships when seeking job opportunities. While sealing your juvenile records should be an accessible process, you may find it difficult to navigate without a criminal lawyer’s help. This is because you must meet numerous requirements and fill in various documents.
Working with an experienced defense attorney makes your work easier. The assistance you receive not only helps you present a valid written petition, but it also increases your chances of success in the court proceedings. You need to remember that the judge holds discretion concerning the granting of record sealing orders. As a result, having an experienced lawyer to argue for your case should always be a priority. Partnering with Leah Legal enables you to work with highly trained and experienced criminal attorneys who put your needs first. Our services are available to clients who plan to petition for sealing juvenile records in Van Nuys, California.
Constituents of Juvenile Records
An accused’s juvenile records constitute different documents and items, depending on the trial proceedings and the circumstances surrounding the juvenile offense. Therefore, you should identify the types of records you intend to petition for sealing, as they help you know what to expect after the court grants the orders.
Usually, juvenile records consist of any material related to your arrest and charging, provided it relates to a criminal offense you committed when you were a minor. Hence, your lawyer should look into all your records to establish whether he/she includes all the relevant documents in the record sealing petition. The main components of a juvenile record include:
Juvenile Probation Reports
Mostly, the judge issues probation among other rehabilitative sentences to juvenile delinquents. Subsequently, your probation reports are a significant record, as they give details of your entire probation duration.
For example, the reports state whether you completed the probation and whether you complied with all terms. When petitioning for record sealing, your defense attorney should include the probation reports as part of the specific documents to be sealed.
Court Judgements and Rulings
Any preliminary rulings that the presiding judge issued during your juvenile proceedings are valid records. These rulings serve to show the continuous court processes that your juvenile proceedings took until the judge granted the final judgment. Hence, your criminal lawyer should research on existing documents to confirm the submissions of your record sealing petition.
Further, the final judgment/verdict issued in the juvenile court is an important record. Normally, the juvenile court may declare you a ward of the court, meaning that you should be held responsible for your unlawful actions. On the other hand, the judge may have dismissed your case on various grounds.
Regardless of the verdict issued, the documents remain as part of your juvenile records. As a result, you want to strive to have them sealed, primarily if they did not lead to a conviction. This way, you prevent negative associations with the record despite having been acquitted of the charges.
Juvenile Court Exhibits
On top of this, any court exhibits that a prosecutor used in juvenile trial proceedings are also stored as records. For example, if you engaged in violent crimes that involved crude weapons, the department of justice retains the actual exhibit in your records. Moreover, exhibits include photographs of the scene of the crime and any transcribed audio or video footage.
What it Means to Seal Juvenile Records
Upon applying to have your records sealed, you will be asking for the court to allow the closure of your juvenile file. As a result, no member of the public can access your juvenile records because they no longer exist within their access.
California law allows record sealing procedures, as stated in the Welfare and Institutions Code 781. The provisions also provide multiple requirements and thresholds for any person looking to seal their records to help them prepare.
The process should help you eradicate the discrimination and additional scrutiny you may receive from potential partners, employers, and other significant members of the public.
Persons Eligible to Benefit From Juvenile Record Sealing
Before applying for the process, you need to check whether you meet the existing eligibility criteria. Doing so saves you from filing an invalid petition that leads to wasted time and resources. Some factors to look out for when checking eligibility are:
- Whether the court believes that your rehabilitation from unlawful behavior was successful.
- You are at least eighteen years old, or the juvenile court’s jurisdiction terminated five years ago.
- You have not engaged in recent felonies or crimes of moral turpitude.
Parties Ineligible for Juvenile Record Sealing
Similarly, several restrictions exist to prevent specific persons from having their records sealed. In this case, the prohibition restricts people who committed crimes listed under section 707(b) of the California Welfare and Institutions Code.
Some of the crimes under the section are:
- Sex offenses
- Murder or attempted murder
- Felonies involving violence
Moreover, the person should have been at least fourteen years old when committing the crime for the restrictions to apply.
The Process of Sealing Your Juvenile Records
Learning of the procedure to undertake in record sealing is also crucial because it equips you with necessary substantive and procedural information. Despite this, your defense lawyer understands the various procedures to undertake to not have to worry about the technicalities.
Filing the Record Sealing Petition
The first step to take involves filing a court petition requesting for granting of records sealing orders. Since the petition is the backbone of your plea, your lawyer should be diligent in entering vital information that justifies the need for record sealing.
Moreover, the petition should entail the specific records you would like sealed, coupled with detailed arguments that support the claims. When you include the precise details, it helps the judge track your records more easily and find it easier to issue the final verdict.
Filing the petition at the specified time is also important to prevent inconveniences. While you may file your court documents at any time, you also need to factor in all time-related requirements. Conducting sufficient research enables you to establish that you have met the eligibility criteria.
The Court Interview
After filing the petition, the court receives and assesses it in preparation for a physical interview. Usually, the judge only directs your criminal lawyer to attend the interview if no extraordinary issues that also require you to appear are present.
However, some judges may insist on interviewing the petitioner in person and prompting you to make a court appearance. During the interview, the judge will ask basic questions concerning the application, to check whether you or your attorney comprehend the reason for the petition.
The interview also gives the judge a chance to make a first impression on you, especially if you appear in person. So, making a good impression is key to set the pace for the actual hearing and increase your chances of success.
Finally, the judge will also inquire on any pressing issues that prompt a court hearing as soon as possible. For example, if you will be traveling outside the country soon, your lawyer may present the urgency of receiving a short waiting period before the hearing. The judge analyses your application and determines whether your reasons make valid arguments to influence the hearing date.
Receiving the Hearing Date
Once the judge settles on a date, he/she then communicate it to your attorney through an official notice. When you receive the date, we recommend setting reminders to keep track, as your attendance could be mandatory.
Sometimes, you may need to adjust the hearing dates due to unforeseen circumstances. If you find yourself in the situation, it is always best to contact your lawyer as soon as possible to enable him/her to convey the information to the court promptly.
Afterward, the judge will set another date that aligns with your availability. However, if extreme cases prevent you from appearing in court at all, the hearing may proceed with your lawyer standing in for you.
The Petition Hearing
The actual hearing involves holding court presentations where the judge assesses your arguments and evidence brought forth. Normally, a hearing arises when the prosecutor who handled your juvenile case disputes your move to apply for record sealing.
The dispute may come from the prosecutor's view that your juvenile offense was serious. Hence, the argument may be that your records should not be destroyed for the sake of future reference. Consequently, the hearing entails presenting arguments that plead your case and counter the prosecutor's claims.
Pending the hearing date, your attorney should help you gather relevant documentary evidence that will persuade the judge to seal your juvenile records. For example, you may gather all probation reports and certificates of completing rehabilitative treatment prescribed by the juvenile court in the past.
Moreover, we advise you to present the original juvenile court judgment. The document will come in handy if you intend to argue that you deserve to have records sealed because you did not receive a juvenile sentence.
Luckily, you may appear in front of the same judge who handled the juvenile case since you should petition the respective juvenile court that handled your matter. If so, you may have an easier time convincing the judge of your reforms.
Also, the evidence you provide will play a significant role in helping the judge ascertain the facts of your previous juvenile case. Similarly, the prosecutor will present his/her evidentiary material that may be from various sources.
Often, the contesting prosecutor uses details from the District Attorney's office and the local department of probation as evidence. Essentially, his/her goal is to adduce evidence that discredits your claims of reform or eligibility for the record sealing process.
After the judge has analyzed all presented arguments and sources of proof, he/she will make the final decision. Sometimes, the court may have to adjourn several times to give the judge enough time for in-depth analysis.
The Possible Court Decisions and their Effects
The judge may approve your request and order for the sealing of your juvenile records. If the petition is allowed, the judge should authorize the sending of court orders to all entities that may have accessed the juvenile records.
The court orders will include statements requesting the entities to destroy all your juvenile records following the allowed petition. As a result, no member of the public should access your juvenile records anymore, giving you a chance to have a fresh start.
On the other hand, the judge may choose to deny the petition and retain your records. When the court dismisses your request, you do not have to worry about it, as there is room for re-application or appeal after some time. Additionally, you will still have a chance to go through the court judgment and determine what may have led the judge to deny you the chance to seal your records.
The Total Waiting Period
When your lawyer drafts a court petition ready for filing, you are likely to enter a long waiting list. The waiting period depends on where you file the petition, as most court stations are overwhelmed with numerous record sealing applications.
Lastly, when you receive a positive case outcome that allows you to seal the records, you may have to wait for three months or ninety days before the sealing occurs.
The Possibility of Reopening Sealed Records
In some cases, the court may allow your sealed records to be reopened as a reference point for justified undertakings. In each instance, you will be notified of the intention to reopen the juvenile records in advance to help you remain aware of the process. The two instances where your records may be reopened are:
In a Defamation Lawsuit
If you are party to a defamation lawsuit, the court will authorize the reopening of sealed records. Usually, accessing the records provides admissible evidence that will help discredit the defamatory statements made against you. For example, if the person defaming you falsely claims that you were guilty of a sexual offense, the records serve as proof to show the actual charges you faced.
You will be content to know that the records are sealed again after the defamation suit concludes. Thus, the court reinstates the status quo that prohibits members of the public from accessing your records.
For an Insurance Company's Scrutiny
Alternatively, an insurance adjuster may request to check your juvenile records, especially if you faced DUI charges. Checking your records helps them make an accurate risk assessment as you apply for insurance.
Further, the scrutiny should be authorized by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The procedural requirement helps to keep track of the reopened records, to prevent an arbitrary scrutiny process that could lead to the loss of vital documents. Moreover, the DMV regulates the process to submit only relevant details to the insurance adjuster.
Destroying Juvenile Records After Sealing Them
After having your juvenile records sealed from the general public's access, they will eventually be destroyed. The process brings a finality to the existing records, as nobody can access them beyond the order of destruction. However, several time restrictions exist before you become eligible to have juvenile records destroyed.
Firstly, you may benefit from the process five years after you received court orders to have the records sealed. To qualify, your juvenile case should have led to your declaration as a ward of the court. The title is often issued to juveniles who engage in repetitive truancy or disobedience.
Generally, being a ward of the court may be equated to being guilty of an offense. However, the unwanted behavior is not necessarily criminal and does not cause significant harm. As a result, you can access the five-year threshold compared to juvenile delinquents who committed felonies.
Secondly, you may have to wait until you turn thirty-eight years old to have your records destroyed. This second category involves minors who were declared a ward of the court after committing criminal activities.
Naturally, people who previously engaged in criminal offenses are thought to pose more danger to the general public. Thus, the public holds onto the right to have access to your juvenile records for longer, despite being restricted by sealing.
Contact a Juvenile Record Sealing Attorney Near Me
Numerous benefits of having your juvenile records sealed exist, including having a new chance at many aspects of life. Therefore, finding a reliable defense lawyer who understands the petition process and needed requirements is crucial to the success of your case.
At Leah Legal, we provide excellent criminal defense services when filing a juvenile record sealing petition. With our help, you are in a better position to seal your juvenile records and allow you to advance in life. If you need to seal juvenile records in Van Nuys, California, call us today at 818-484-1100.